A hot summer on the farm, watering and writing

With only two weeks to prepare before my Midwest Writer’s Workshop in Muncie, Indiana, I’m squeezing writing time in between chores in the garden, the barn and the hay field.  Oh yes, and then there’s cleaning all the leaves out of the pool that have fallen from the surrounding trees decimated from the drought.

The mostly alfalfa and clover hay has just been raked and will be baled later today. Not much there, but with all the bugs, it had to be cut to protect the plants.

The hay was raked this morning.  It looks better than I thought it would because, after no rain for weeks, it poured for twenty minutes just one hour after it was cut on Monday. (That leaches out much of the nutrition and color.)  It was one of those oddball cloud bursts that only blessed a few farms with the much needed moisture.  Oh well.  The hay will due–there’s not much of it anyway–and I’m happy for the trees and grass getting a bit of a drink and a reprieve for me because I didn’t need to water my garden on Tuesday.

The new sprinkler heads make it easier to water without waste.

Speaking of the garden, it’s starting to produce.  We’ve had raspberries for months, but they’re almost finished now–the Asian beetles and some little hard-shelled, black bug variety have found their way into them.  The zucchini and summer squash plants have been popping out new veggies to pick everyday for a  couple of weeks now, to the point that to keep them from going bad, I’m making them into a cold squash soup.  It’s great for those days when I come in, hot from weeding and watering, and too tired to cook.  I steamed them with a red onion, blended them with the remaining water, and put it all in the fridge.  When I’m ready for a quick meal, I ladle some into a bowl, add some spice–salt & pepper, powdered garlic, and a wonderful pizza spice I found in the back of the spice cupboard–top it off with some soy parmesan cheese, and sit down with a good book.

I pulled these beans out because of a white powder mildew, but new ones are already emerging.

I made my first cole slaw from my garden cabbage, using the outer leaves only.  Not the usual because they were a much deeper green than what most people use to make slaw, but with the carrot, cider vinegar and soy-sour cream, it was perfect for my taste.  I’m pretty close to being a Vegan now that I’ve given up dairy, but I can’t resist an occasional piece of fish.  Good protein and a nice change of pace from all the soy.

I think one of these is Collard but I don’t know which, nor the name of the other. Can you help?

This is a funny plant on the right. I have no idea what it is, when or how to pick or how to prepare it.

Next, I need to find a way to use my Greens.  Since I don’t eat meat,  cooking them with bacon just won’t work.  I’ve read not to add salt until you’re ready to eat because it pulls out all the water from the leaves and makes it blah.  Also, the internet featured tons of warnings not to overcook Greens.  I’m not even sure which ones I grew.  I know I have Kale and one of them is Collard greens, I think, but don’t know the other two.  That’s what I get for buying plants with labels on the peat pot that has to be torn off in order to plant.  I know, I should have written it down somewhere.  I still have lots to learn in the garden, but it’s a fun process muddling my way through.

He’s getting terribly thin, but he’s still a lover boy.

On the animal front, Bailer (named because that’s where he was born–in the hay bailer–to a ferrel momma cat) is looking pretty sad.  I feed him special can food from the vet on the kitchen counter away from the other cats (though I give them–Tyler, JD and Patrick– a taste of the good stuff off the butter knife that I use to section it out of the can into Bailer’s bowl).  I hope with the expensive food and extra attention, he will put on a few pounds or at least not lose anymore.  When I pick him up, there’s hardly anything left of him.  He’s my “baby boy,” favorite status since Patches died.  When he’s not outside (which is now only in nice weather during the day because he’s so old and I worry), he’s in my lap.  Patrick, the next-oldest cat, likes to push his way in, but I usually make them take turns.  Otherwise, I have claws flying right in the middle of a favorite show, like NEWSROOM.

Have you seen it, it’s the new series written by Allen Sorkin on HBO.  It’s a don’t miss if you liked West Wing or The American President.  Greg and I watch it with cats in our laps and Max at our feet.

He’s my guardian and constant companion.

The storm has passed, the rain has ended.

It has been raining, for more than a day, a nice, steady rain, soft and gentle, a healing rain after a long period of stress, weeks and weeks of drought, with strong dry winds and baking heat. The back of the heat has been broken with an almost shocking coolness, like a death after a long illness.

A peaceful night comes.

The suffering has ended. Transformation has come. The earth has come back to life–greener than green.

The hay in the field cut early from the wet, warm March begins to grow again.  The trees, already fully leafed-out, have their bounce back; lost is the fragile brittleness that the stress of the heat had created. The baby vegetables that had slumped from the harsh winds are perked back up, ready to sprout the fruit and flowers for the coming harvest to sustain me as I heal.

Sunny smiles

For I have been injured too, by the death of my 13 year old Golden Retriever, Sunny.  He was a good dog.  Always happy to greet a newcomer.  Bouncing with joy for any treat.  Eager to be at my side.  I will miss him.

Happy Dog

And Jazzy too, who we lost last year, long before her time.  She had been only seven and horribly sick for over a year when we finally ended her suffering.

Sunny seemed to suffer for only a day, a holiday when our vet was out of town.  So I stayed by his side to offer what comfort I could.

Both gone now.

Max is lonely now.  He’s cousin of Jazzy’s who we rescued last year to help Sunny and me through our grief.   No longer playful, Max huddles at my feet where ever I go in the house, struggling to please me in any way, his dark brown eyes sad.

Lonely now.

I hope to stay near him as much as I can because, for the first time in almost thirty years, we will be a one-dog family.  Max can still chase the cats about the house, but they cannot fill the hole that Sunny’s loss has created.

Goodbye old friend.

So we will mourn for a time and see if we can make due.  Times are hard and traveling is on the horizon.  Maybe next year we’ll think about getting another dog.  Not now.  Not yet.

I love you too.